Ask an expert: Your questions answered

We answer your questions about shonky service, unexpected bills, a faulty electric car and refund rights.

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Each month, our experts answer members' questions. If you're a paying Consumer member and have a consumer issue, you can contact our advice line for help.

Shonky service

Tradie blames cockroach for faulty dishwasher

I purchased a dishwasher in June 2017. I noticed the water in the dishwasher wasn’t heating and the machine was stopping mid-cycle, so I called the retailer as it was still under warranty. The retailer directed me to the manufacturer, which sent out a technician. He was rude and abrupt, and spent more time Googling how to fix the dishwasher than examining it.

19feb dishwasher body

He finally opened the dishwasher and a cockroach crawled out. There was no further examination and he said that the cockroach was responsible for the faulty control board. He didn’t know the call-out fee or control board cost. I asked how he could be so sure this was the issue as I thought an examination of the device was warranted – he didn’t even look at the control board. The manufacturer said the product is not covered for insect damage, but claims it’s a common problem. A MEMBER

WE SAY: The inspection done by the technician was poor and it’s odd he couldn’t tell you the repair cost. We hope the company isn’t planning on charging for this “service” call! The warranty for this model excludes the cost of “correcting damage caused by pests”, so if the cockroach caused the problem the warranty won’t help you. However, if the dishwasher can be so easily disabled by a cockroach, and if that’s a common problem, then the machine isn’t fit for purpose. Therefore, the retailer would be liable for the cost of repair under the Consumer Guarantees Act. We’d suggest telling the retailer about its obligations under the act and requesting the machine be properly assessed.

Unexpected bill

Hit with extra bill for X-ray

I had an X-ray last month at a private hospital, and was invoiced and charged $40, which I paid. Today, I got an invoice for an additional $136 with no explanation. After an email discussion, the hospital said the X-ray was accidentally recorded as being covered by ACC when I was paying for it myself so there’s an additional charge. Can it do this after the procedure? A MEMBER

WE SAY: If you weren’t responsible for the accidental classification of the X-ray being covered by ACC, and didn’t know about the mistake, the company has no right to insist you pay the extra $136. It’s too late for it to introduce new terms into the contract after it’s accepted payment for the service.

Faulty electric car

$41,000 car fails

In February 2018, I bought a UK-import Renault electric car from a dealer. The car was registered in the UK in October 2017 and had done 400km when we bought it for $40,990.

19feb electric car body

In July, the car developed a fault that made it stop randomly. We took the car to the local Renault dealer hoping a software upgrade would fix it. Two visits and $780 later, the dealer says a new electric motor is required, costing $14,500. Seems odd for a car less than one year old that’s done less than 7000km. I contacted the original dealer and asked what its responsibilities were under the Consumer Guarantees Act. The dealer replied it thought it had none. Is the dealer liable? What’s the maximum amount I could ask for from the Disputes Tribunal? DAVE KELLY

WE SAY: You shouldn’t have to fork out for expensive repairs on a $40,990 car you’ve owned for less than a year. As you bought the car from a licensed motor vehicle dealer, you’re covered by the Consumer Guarantees Act (CGA). You have to give the dealer the opportunity to fix the problem. But if it can’t or won’t, you can reject the vehicle under the CGA and ask for a full refund. If the dealer refuses to come to the party, you can lodge a claim in the Motor Vehicle Disputes Tribunal. The tribunal can hear claims up to $100,000. It costs $50 to lodge a claim.

UPDATE: The dealer swapped the car for another nearly new one.

Refund rights

When you can’t expect a refund

I bought a jacket from a local retailer and paid by credit card. The following day I returned it as it was too big. The retailer accepted the return but told me it couldn’t give me a refund and instead would give me a credit note. I didn’t query the explanation and took the credit note. Was the retailer correct in saying it couldn’t refund payment because I’d paid with a credit card? I don’t want or need to buy anything else from this retailer and am concerned if it closes down I will be left high and dry. A MEMBER

WE SAY: A retailer doesn’t have to take back an item if you’ve got a case of buyer’s remorse or your circumstances have changed (though some stores will do so in the interests of good customer relations). In your case, you’d changed your mind about a product you’d taken home so you’re not automatically entitled to a refund or exchange, regardless of how you paid for the item. If you can’t find anything for yourself at the store, you could always use the credit to buy a gift for someone else.

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